Monday, May 30, 2005
First was a spot of show and tell. We all had held our President's Challenge watercolors hearts. This was the only time everyone had something to show. It was our last meeting of the year and we all want to be reminded that each of us has done through the course of the year.
M was a veteran of the club. She has been in the Guild since the days where the meetings were held at the American Embassy and meetings were attended by as many as 80 - 100 quilters. Gone were those days.
M's table runner
Ai was another veteran of the club. When she first started quilting cotton was so hard to find, and whatever cotton fabric the women could find, they'd bought it in bulk and shared it out amongst themselves.
A's water color heart
J, our Guild President for next year. She too has been in the guild for a while now. She hasn't had time to quilt for awhile but took the extra effort to finish the President's challenge.
J's watercolors heart
S now she is the quiet one. I haven't been able to get to know her better but I thought her color combination was rather unique.
S's watercolors Heart
And mine, my second quilt that I have ever sewn. My quilt buddies were surprised I picked green. They'd thought I'd do red, the traditional and unimaginative choice, yeah, that was me. But the fabric combination was something I would have never picked myself so I took up the challenge to do a green heart.
My green water color heart
The meeting was somewhat ruled by a somber mood. J, our outgoing president was due for an operation over the weekend. There was a tumor in the womb and she would have to go through a hysterectomy. We all felt her pain. I have since heard that she is doing OK in the hospital after her operation. The tumor was benign and we are so glad for her. Even in her hospital bed, she was quilting, a quilt that she has taken 9 years and is still working on it.
Somehow the party started when the whole event was over, when we were all in the kitchen clearing the food and getting ready to go home. I traded food with Ev and Ai. We had a portluck and since I didn't know what to bring, I bought some chicken rice. A bit too heavy for the Ang Moh stomachs. Ai had brought a chicken Caesar salad. So we traded, I took the rest of her salad and her lovely Ranch salad dressing home while she took my claypot chicken rice and chilli sauce.
Ev told me that she didn't managed to taste any of my chicken rice in the end because her son had finished it all the following day.
I am now working on another watercolors heart and have fabric to do three more. When will I finish it? At the expense of blogging and blog reading unfortunately.
Sunflora: The caveat you put ("that no other person is hurt at all") is impossible to attain. As a man, I know and understand that no woman would one to share her husband. And this was attested by my Wife, the Willing One. She was hurt, but not in the magnitude that would destroy her or make her dysfunctional. What woman would not? But mankind are driven by a higher purpose, we live by a certain moral code. That moral code should dictate how we react to certain issues.
Which higher purpose are you referring to? The need to save so called single women in their 30s who have not yet married? The need to procreate? The need to fulfil your sexual desire?
And which moral code are you referring to? The moral code whereby it is acceptable for a man to marry four. When our Prophet SAW married four, they were not single virgin ladies (except for Aisha). They were single mothers with children, who had no one to support them. Is that the moral code you were referring to?
I had greater respect for you when you were honest enough to say that you were just horny and could not keep your little man in your pants. Some people did not like it but I respected you because you were honest.
But all this justification, using moral codes as justification? If you want to do it, just be a man and go ahead and do it. Who cares what other people think. Why care what I think? Why care what other Malays think? Be a man and take a stand and relieve both women out of their misery of your indecision. Either make an honest woman out of her or end the whole thing. Either way, frankly I don’t really care because it doesn’t concern me. I lead my life the way I want to lead mine and I believe that everyone should lead their lives the way they want to lead theirs.
I only gave my opinion because I thought I read the thoughts of one confused woman. A woman who is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her I feel for, you however, I know that you knew what you did. She’s not your first and she won’t be your last. You’re not the first man to do it, and won’t be the last one either. But her, she’s the one who people will blame. She’s the one who will be ostracized while you, the MAN, will be cheered upon. “Good for you!” they will all say. Other men will ask you how you do it. The women will just excuse you for “not being able to withhold himself.” But HER, for her it will be different. The whispers she could have to endure behind her back ,”Ah that’s the homewrecker.” Or “That’s HER.” At her work place. At weddings. At parties. They will all give her THAT look but you they will cheer upon.
Of course it sounds romantic. A romeo and Juliet sort of relationship. The one where “everyone” opposed. But frankly, do what you want to do already. I only give a hoot because I do not ever want to be “THE WILLING ONE”’s shoes. Nauzubillah. But if she’s willing good for her. May she gain a place for herself in jannah.
A man, a husband, if he really loves his wife, should never ever subject his wife to this sort of agony. He should be able to put her happiness above his itch. But that’s much too hard isn’t it? To just be true to one person for the rest of your life? To rekindle the romance and the lust with the same person for 20 years or more. Its much easier to find excitement with a new and often younger person. Its more exciting. More romantic. How many of us send our shoes to the cobbler to be mended anyways? We just throw them out and buy a new one. Society does it to our shoes, surely that’s acceptable.
Some of us prefer the hard road, others just like to find the easy way out. But ultimately it’s a choice that each individual has to make for himself/herself. As Newton’s third law states, “With every action, there is and equal and opposite reaction.” As long as we all know that there will be consequences to all our actions and we are willing to accept the consequences whatever they may be, why do you care what other people think? Why so defensive? Why do you feel that you’re under attack?
What ever it is, good luck to you. Just stop your justification already.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Apparently there are many places where one could keep one’s ties. Ideally, the multicoloured ties are hung on a tie hanger in the closet but one particular person I know quite well seems to think otherwise.
A favourite is the dining table, sometimes the dining chair, other times at the sofa downstairs, then there is the writing desk, perhaps on the dressing table, if not one the camel seat by the door, otherwise on the breakfast table. All these are the many creative places one can choose to keep one’s ties and sometimes by pure magic all the ties suddenly appeared in the closet again. Isn’t life amazing?
Aside from the many places one can creatively keep one’s ties, one can also make creative use of them. A favourite is as a bib aka a way to show one’s wife one had for lunch. A spot of curry, perhaps barbeque sauce or ketchup if one had hamburgers for lunch.
So why do men wear ties anyways??
Next entry…. socks and why men should invent disposable socks or use socks as a novel home décor item.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
In my quest to build up my social calendar, I have been able to meet all sorts of different people. Some nice, some ok and some just plain nasty. But what I find most difficult is when I am in the neutral center of two people or two groups who don’t get along. And women, when they don’t get along, things can be very nasty.
I hate tiptoeing between “warring factions” because women can be very mean when they want to be. The vicious gossip, the cattyness is just beyond comprehension for me. And what’s with the playground mentality? If you’re on her team and you’re her friend, I guess you won’t be my friend then. What is that all about? And the passing on trivial gossip, “Oh so and so are not getting along,” and “Oh so and so has 3 houses!” or “Did you know so and so is …?” What’s that all about?
Perhaps its just that the women here have less of a life that they resort to some of the nasty gossip. Or is it being surrounded by fellow Asians that things are somewhat competitive?
Why can’t people just get along and be nice and kind to one another without being catty? I suppose if you do hangout with the right person or the right group then you’d have the insider gossips, invites to nice parties with important people and access to some exclusive privileges. But does that really matter?
I find the easiest group for me to hangout with are groups that are formed because the women have the same interests. Like cooking and quilting. Ok Ok I can hear some of you snickering. I remember a label was thrown on me, “Oh you’re so domestic.” Domestic or not I enjoy being in the company of women who have the same interests as I do, and these women are very passionate in what we do, let it be cooking or quilting. Someone once ask me, “Why don’t you know how to cook? Is that why you go to cooking classes?” or “So why would you go to these classes if you don’t cook any of these dishes for us?” Well my answer to that is, it’s the socializing that I go for. I have been privileged to meet many women of various ages, experiences and different backgrounds. We are women who seek out activities for ourselves to expand, to experience something new and something different. As D said the other day, “I am so glad that I went to all these cooking classes because every single person I met at cooking classes are very nice people.”
Well D, perhaps we are a bunch of well fed people that’s why ;) No growling hungry stomachs to make us mean and catty.
And these women are all so willing to share! They share resources, they share information, everything! Its amazing how much fabric we women are willing to share in the quilt guild! And most of us know how precious good fabrics are here!
And funnily enough, the number of Asian ladies within these circles are so little. Why is that? Language barrier? Reluctance to hangout with people who are not from the same social/racial background as them?
So laugh at me if you must because I am forever going for cooking and quilting class. But please don’t come to me and tell me how much you hate the other groups or the other person. I am no angel myself and I am not immune to being catty when provoked. But I prefer to sit in my little shell, doing my own stuff without knowing too much who gets along with whom, doing what.
I am trying my hardest to keep my trap shut so I don’t accidentally feed the animosity between people who don’t get along. The less I know the better. Ignorance is bliss after all.
How hard is it for one person just remain neutral without getting involved?
Friday, May 20, 2005
Weekends are often spent with friends and acquaintances, often over food. Sometimes we Malaysians meet up just to hangout to compare notes. Some have been here awhile now, others are new, just off the boat we tease them.
One of the ladies was telling us that she was planning to return to Malaysia. She been here hardly six month but she decided that it was best for her to stay in Malaysia, allowing her daughter to go to school and let the husband stay on for another year before considering if he would return to Malaysia.
And its not just the Malaysians that faces this sort of dilemma. I would say this issue of long distance relationship is quite a common topic with us expats in general. Especially the expats in this particular country, because some women just cannot adapt themselves to the lifestyle and the culture here.
Others claim, its more economically viable for them to stay in the home country.
So I often ask myself, is it worthwhile all these sacrifices we make? Of course I do recognize that we all make our on decisions based on our own unique situations. But sometimes I just have to wonder, didn’t you guys discuss the logistics of things before coming over? Didn’t you do your research, finding out what the cost of living is like, what sort of social/culture differences you have to adapt to? And didn’t they do a bit of financial calculation, if there will be much money left to send home at the end of every month without compromising your lifestyle here?
Back to that lady friend of mine, although she said outwardly the decision to throw the towel here is a financial reason rather than an emotional one, I think its her heart that is ruling her head. Because I have to wonder, isn’t sustaining two households more expensive than just one? And the husband plans to fly back every six months to visit them. Their youngest child is hardly one, the father will be missing the important milestones in his children’s life. How much does that cost in dollars and cents?
When people come here, they are often attracted by the seemingly higher wages here. As one junior nurse tells me, she earns 7 times more here than she does in Malaysia. And some even goes on to break their bond, come here to work and is able to pay off the bond with 3 months salary.
But some people don’t realize that the cost of living here is much higher than Malaysia. For example a Burger King meal costs about RM6 but here it costs RM18! And therefore the wages are inline with the higher cost of living here.
I do feel for my friend. Because I know from my experience that a long distance relationship is a very difficult one. And even though I’d rather be living elsewhere, I would rather live with my husband.
But I think the other problem for her here is her depression. She found living here very depressing. Unlike some of us whose employers provide accommodation and transportation allowance, her husband did not get those perks. Non compound living does have its benefits, but is extremely difficult for someone new to the country. There is no place to walk around freely, no playground for children to play at and no instant network of friends. (Remember the all important shopping bus I blogged about before?) Without your own vehicle, getting around in taxis can be rather expensive and exasperating. So I totally understand why she finds the move very hard.
But I did mention to her that no matter where we live in the world, the first six months is always the hardest. It’s the time one takes to adapt to the culture, climate and to understand how things operate.
I really would like to cheer her up and make her feel better about living here. Because I do find that I am beginning to be comfortable where I am. But I do realize that I have been living away from my family for the last 10 years. And not everyone can live away from their families. Some people are very attached to their families that they cannot bear to be far away from their parents and siblings. Thus adding another difficulty in adjusting to life as an expat. If you’re accustomed to having babysitters on tap, or going over to mum’s for dinner on alternate days and having brother to come and fix some problems around the house, then suddenly being away from that family support can be very daunting and terrifying. And lonely too.
And I also noticed that some Malaysians prefer to hangout only with other Malaysians. Which is fine of course. I can see the many benefits of that, coming from the same culture, similar backgrounds, same taste for food etc. But it could be a problem if there aren’t many Malaysians around here in the first place. And how will you get to widen your social circle if you keep on hanging out with just the same people all the time? I also find it very self defeating when all we do when we get together is to reminisce about the good times back in Malaysia, and enjoying all things Malaysian. There is nothing wrong to reminisce except that we should always keep in mind that there was a reason why we chose to come here and that we should enjoy some of the culture and the little pleasures in life that are available here.
Anyways, reason I am writing this is just as a caution to those of you out there who are considering a job option abroad. Don’t just concentrate on how much higher the salary is and the idealistic notion of being an expat wife. Please do your research and make careful considerations first before making the big decision to move. Find out what sort of lifestyle and/or dietary changes you have to make when you move. Recognize that no matter how prepared you think you are, you will experience some form of culture shock and possibly depression for the first two months. Plan ahead what you think you will be doing with your time when you arrive at the new country. Will you be looking for a job to occupy you? If you have projects in mind, research and find out if materials for your project is available at the country you’re moving to. Otherwise bring them with you. And bring some things that you know will occupy you until you find that job or that class or whatever. Because things work and are done differently in different countries.
As Atizah once pointed out, “Hujan emas di negeri orang, hujan batu di negeri sendiri, lebih baik di negeri sendiri.”
Personally, I believe that no matter where in the world we live in, we win some and we will lose some. I’d have to learn to make the best of whatever situation that I am thrown in.
I do hope Z will cheer up and decide to stay on. But if she chooses to go back, I hope things will work out either way. Insyallah.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
“You told me when we first got married that you didn’t like jewellery. But I have since found that you do like jewellery.”
“Well I didn’t lie. Then I didn’t like jewellery so much. But now its different. I am older and perhaps my taste has changed a little. There are certain situations where it would be nice to wear a little jewellery. And its not any jewellery that I want. None of those thick gold chains for me thanks.”
Every now and then we have these conversations. We touched base, feeling out how the other person feels about certain topics. Sometimes the topics are sensitive, sometimes its sensible.
This is so with each passing year, as we settle in comfortably in our married life. We sometimes begin to take each other for granted. Until something happens that reminds us not to do so.
I remember watching the movie Love Actually, there was a scene where Harry (Alan Rickman) bought jewellery as a present for his secretary. (She left him a note telling him to buy her something she wants not something she needs.) Karen (Emma Thomson) his wife, found the jewellery and thought that it was Harry’s Christmas present for her, so she hid it where she found it. And she was so disappointed to find that upon unwrapping her present, Harry had given her a CD as a Christmas present, and the jewellery was for someone else.
Yes it is true that very often its not what the gift is, but it’s the thought that counts. But there is something that we women love, to be appreciated, and to be pampered. And sometimes jewellery does say that. We want to know that we are worthy of pretty things and that you men think we are deserving of pretty and frivolous things. Especially when the man is your husband.
I also remember stories from a male friend of mine. He boasted that he never bothers to buy flowers for his wife because he feels that it is a waste of money. Instead, he says, often buys her nice expensive presents instead.
But I also remember him telling me that while courting a short term girlfriend (don’t ask) he sent her flowers, waiting for her in her hotel room. And he even bought a his girlfriend a present.
When I asked him, didn’t you get anything for your wife as well? He said, well she has my credit card. She can buy whatever she wants.
So I have to ask, why is it flowers/presents are a waste of money for wives, but are acceptable present for girlfriends/flings/mistress/gundiks?
But often we wives are to be blamed. We understand the financial commitments we have as a family; mortgages to pay for, savings for old age, holidays, savings for the children’s schools. So we tell him, its OK if he doesn’t waste money on us for frivolous things. We try not to ask too much from him. So much so we killed the romance.
You’re probably thinking, don’t be delusional woman! Which man loves to buy jewellery? Or flowers? Isn’t all that a waste of money?
But its not just about the gift. It’s the fact that he is showing how much he appreciates you, or that he was thinking of you and that he wants to see your smile and your joy when you open the package.
Surely, love is not about material things? Surely love is about the feelings we feel inside that counts. Some men I know, actually buys the wife gifts because he feels guilty that he has done something naughty.
Well that could be true too.
But a good genuine surprise now and then shouldn’t hurt. All I am saying to the men out there, please don’t take your wives for granted. She may say, no thank you, I don’t need jewellery or gifts from you, because I appreciate the fact that you come home to me every night. But it wouldn’t hurt to pamper her once in a while.
And for the wives, I think some positive reinforcements won’t hurt either ;)
The bag behind the laptop
He had hidden the second blue bag behind my laptop, waiting for me to discover it. I had seen it but it didn’t occur to me that it was a different bag. A second bag. I just didn’t think it was a possibility. Until he literally pointed it out to me.
“Honey look! Two bags! Didn’t you see it?”
I was laughing like a small child.
Thank you darling. Thank you for pampering me. And you know I will always pamper you too ;)
I love you as long as you love me too.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Gagal bersama isteri kedua
SAYA kini berusia 48 tahun dan sudah berkahwin selama 25 tahun dan mempunyai lima anak. Lima tahun lalu, isteri saya dijangkiti penyakit berkaitan kewanitaan. Menurut pakar sakit puan, penyakit isteri saya sukar disembuhkan dan saya tidak dibenarkan bersama dengannya untuk mengelak jangkitan.
Kini, saya sudah berkahwin lain selepas mendapat kebenaran isteri pertama. Namun, saya menghadapi masalah ketika mahu bersama isteri kedua. Zakar saya tidak mampu ereksi, malah ia semakin kecut daripada berukuran lima setengah inci hingga dua inci saja! Saya juga tidak mampu mendapat ejakulasi dan yang keluar hanya air mazi saja.
Adakah masalah ini berlaku akibat perbuatan isteri pertama saya. Ketika mengadakan berjimak dengannya, zakar saya berfungsi seperti biasa tetapi apabila bersama isteri kedua, perkara sebaliknya pula yang berlaku.
KEMAMPUAN untuk melakukan persetubuhan bagi lelaki terletak kepada tahap kesihatan dan tahap ereksi. Jika tahap kesihatan bagus, maka mudah untuk lelaki mencapai ereksi yang mencukupi supaya dapat melakukan hubungan seksual penetratif. Di samping itu, tenaga yang kuat dan daya kekuatan atau stamina diperlukan terutama jika beraksi dengan pasangan lebih muda!
Daya kekuatan ereksi yang mencukupi diperlukan supaya dapat melakukan penetrasi yang mana keperluan itu jika bersama pasangan muda daya penetrasi lebih kurang tiga kali ganda! Jadi tidak hairan jika terdengar lelaki beristeri muda daripada pasangan awalnya mendapati dia kurang mampu melakukan hubungan penetratif dengan pasangan baru kerana daya kemampuan yang amat rendah. Ini membuatkannya berasa rendah diri dan mengalah kerana tekanan kepada egonya, maka dia mengaitkan kegagalannya kepada ilmu hitam atau perbuatan sihir isteri tua.
Sebenarnya isteri tua lebih mengetahui mengenai suaminya itu dan kemampuan syahwatnya. Dia juga boleh mengubah suai keadaan kerana dia tahu bagaimana cara hendak meningkatkan ego suami.
Walaupun suami sebenarnya berkeadaan lemah tetapi masih berkemampuan ‘sedikit’ untuk melakukan persetubuhan.
Isteri muda mungkin belum lagi tahu cara dan kebijaksanaan yang ditimba dari pengalaman persetubuhan dan perkongsian hidup seperti isteri tua!
Jika masih gagal untuk bersetubuh, sila jumpa doktor kerana anda mungkin mengalami disfungsi erektil dan perlu mendapat rawatan sewajarnya. Ubat PDE-Inhibitor seperti viagra, levitra atau cialis dapat membantu dengan nasihat dan bimbingan doktor.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Ayu stepped out of the car with two of her children. They were doing their usual Wednesday morning grocery shopping and suddenly her daughter needed to use the washroom. Since it was almost impossible to get parking in that area, her husband just dropped her and her two children off while he drove round the car park looking for parking space.
Upon entering the shopping center, Ayu approached the security guard and asked him,
“Excuse me can you tell me where the toilet is?” She asked the question politely with a smile of course. After all we were brought up not to be rude.
So the security guard walked them to the woman’s toilet which is at the very back of the building. The area was somewhat deserted but Ayu’s daughter really had to go. So they quickly went into the cubicle to get the business done.
After that they went to the sink to wash their hands and Ayu noticed that the security guard was still waiting at the door of the toilet. She merely smiled politely at him and proceeded to help her children wash their hands.
And then she noticed that the security guard was approaching them. Closer. And closer. And then he tried to kiss Ayu. Ayu was shocked. She told her two children to scream and quickly run out to the car to look for daddy, as she quickly pushed the security guard away. It was just a huge blur, but luckily they managed to run quickly out of the shopping centre, saw that her husband was waiting in the car in front of the building, jumped in and asked him to quickly drive away.
So this story became a cautionary tale which we shared amongst our friends. Do not attempt to go to toilets in that area especially if the woman is alone.
My husband related this story to his work colleague, lamenting how difficult it is for them (the men) to rest on the weekends as they had to physically accompany their wives when the wives are shopping. And then it was revealed to him.
“You mean you didn’t know the code?”
“Well she used the code. That is why the security guard followed her to the washroom.”
“Huh? What code are you talking about?”
Well as it turns out, the area where Ayu was shopping that morning is a centre for a secret prostitution ring. Unfortunately for us, there are some Asian women who came here working legitimate jobs in the day also moonlight offering sex in exchange for money in that area. And it turned out, the invitation for offering such services was coded, and one of the codes was an invitation to the toilet.
Since Ayu did not protest or chase him away, he was assuming that she was offering the service, despite the fact that she was with two children. And she had inadvertently used the code.
I have to say that it is sad that even a simple smile here is considered a suggestion or an invitation to a man. Which is why some of the non local women have resorted to wearing the face covering.
So be careful when asking for the toilet ;) You might be using the code and is offering a service that you might not be interested in providing.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
I opened my eyes to see him staring at me. He is the first person I see each morning. That look of adoration in his eyes. I don't want that look to ever go away. Never! I smiled. I asked him if he wanted his breakfast. And he answered, "Yes please."
I reached for my glasses. And he pointed to the blue bag on the bed. I smiled.
I had seen a small blue bag inside his shopping bag yesterday. I told him that I had seen it and he said, "Ahh you nii. You're spoiling my surprise."
We are alike in many ways. We like to do things on our own terms, in our own little way.
"You can open it if you want," he said.
I let it be. I pretended I didn't see it.
And this morning, he pointed the little blue bag beside my pillow. I put my glasses on and reached out for the contents of the bag. It was tied with a pretty white ribbon. He knows how to spoil me. I will give him that. He knows what makes me happy.
I remembered the first time I opened another box with the similar white ribbon. It was about eight maybe nine years ago, his first Valentine's Day gift. He had sought the help of two of his female friends in Hong Kong to buy me the gift. I didn't know what Tiffany's was at that time. I was so naive. It was a bracelet with two interwined hearts. That was the beginning.
He woke me up with the little blue bag
I untied the pretty white ribbon. And saw the little blue bag, and inside, was a pair of Paloma picasso earings. I had seen the earrings before, a few years ago in Singapore. But we didn't buy it then. We had our commitments.
I removed my only other pair of earrings that I have here. The ones he bought for me in the first year of our marriage. The only pair I have been wearing whereever I went. I put the new pair on. They felt good.
I made him breakfast while wearing my new pair of earrings. It was scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. He was late.
As he walked to the door, we hugged. He hugged me tight and whispered in my ear, "Thank you for looking after my parents when they were here. I love you."
And darling, I love you too. Thank you for appreciating me. I love the fact that you love me and is still in love in me.
Will have to dig up that nurse uniform for tonight ;)
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
View from my sewing room
Lollies’s comment yesterday and Atenah’s blog entry made me think a little bit more about myself and my blog.
Perhaps I am terrible. I often use this blog to purge my misery, my unhappiness or things in general that was bothering me . I also practice a lot of self censorship when it comes to expressing my happiness and pleasures in this blog. Why? I am very careful in trying not to portray myself as showing off. I don’t know why, self promoting is not my thing and sometimes when I do, unintentionally, I literally get slapped right back in the conversation. With words of course. Suddenly I find people getting threatened by me or they’d dismiss me as a show off. Perhaps its my tone? Or perhaps it’s the things I talk about? So in the end, I make myself sound like a negative whiner. [But this can be another blog entry altogether.]
Anyways I was digressing. Yes I whinge too much. I whinge about feeling trapped and being oppressed as a woman. But I should be lucky that we came here by choice and that when we feel that we have had enough, we can move on. And yes, I shouldn’t complain too much because we came here by choice. We came because of the attractive package that they offered us. Accommodation is provided, as well as air tickets. There are no income taxes to pay here. And compared to Malaysia, the salary here is very attractive indeed. (They take into account that most families here are single income families anyways.) We don’t have to pay the normal utility bills and we enjoy the perks of living in a compound. If a light bulb goes off, I just needed to call the maintenance people and someone will come to fix it. Ditto if I have plumbing problems, and when there was a problem with my phone line, a guy came to fix it within 30 mins of my call. All this would have been different compared to my life in the UK. A plumbing problem could be very expensive and it took 3 days for the NTL guy to rectify the phone problem. So yes, life here is generally good.
I had to do all the cleaning and cooking while we were living in the UK. Eating out at Malaysian Hall was considered a treat. We could not afford much else because either it was not Halal or the bill would be exorbitant. Here, we can eat out fairly easy and we can better afford to eat out at nice restaurants. Imagine a buffet dinner at the local Four Seasons Hotels cost RM130+++ per person. Less than £20. To eat out at a similar establishment in the UK would cost us £100. Can’t afford that.
And cars are more affordable here. And petrol as well. We drove a £400 20 year old car for 2 years. Now we have a 2 tank SUV. And we finished paying it off last month.
And here I could hire a lady to come and clean my house every week. Something which I definitely could not afford when we were living in the UK. I also get to take quilting classes, yoga, hire a personal trainer, all which were out of reach for us financially when we were living elsewhere.
To answer your question Lollies, there are some pleasures here, namely eating and shopping. Life can generally good, as long as we ignore the small issue of women not having freedom. So we end up gaining lots of weight here. But of course, there is a gym in my compound, another facility which if I wanted to use in the UK would have cost us £45 a month.
I guess what I am saying is, Allah is fair. Life is fair. We will always gain some and lose some. There will always be both good sides and bad sides, no matter where in the world we live in. There is always a price to pay for everything. In my case, the price of living in comfort is my freedom. How long can I stand it? I don’t really know. Our main aim when we decided to come here, is to pay off our mortgages, go to Hajj, repair our souls a bit more and learn more about our religion.
Yes I have to wear an abaya when I go out. But wearing an abaya brings both good and bad. I don’t have to worry about co-ordinating the colours of my clothes under my abaya, and I have, gone out to the shopping mall in my pyjamas. However, this is a terrible habit as I found myself forgetting how to “dress” when I don’t need to wear my abaya. I found that all my clothes are unsuitable to be worn for non abaya environments. Short tight baby Ts, tight fitting pants. So I needed a separate wardrobe for when I go to people’s home and I would need to remove my abaya. And since shopping is the main preoccupation, why not. Shopping wise, its pretty good here. Almost everything can be found here, all the big names are sold here; Saks Fifth Avenue, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams, Marks and Spencers, Laura Ashley, Mothercare, etc just to give you an idea. And the prices are attractive too, especially during the sales. They are really at half price. Compared to Malaysia where there is a hefty mark up on the prices of items on the above mentioned shops, there are no taxes here and what we pay here is comparable to the price we’d have to pay at any high street shop in the UK.
And friends who have children did say that this is a good environment to raise their children. We live in a fairly closed and safe environment, so parents needn’t worry about the safety of the children so much, there are hardly any mugging, no kidnapping, no child rapist spying on children when they play, no paedophile lurking trying to lure your children to deflower them, no mad drunken driver to run your children down when they play at the park.
To sum up, yes we are living in a gilded cage. And yes, the longer we stay, the more our wings are clipped and perhaps we may forget to fly. But for now, at least we have the key to our cage. Until we have had enough or when a better offer comes, we’ll sit in our gilded cages and sing some songs at the Mall. (Especially when the SALE sign is displayed on the window.) J
Monday, May 09, 2005
Picture courtesy of BBC
There I was walking down a street. And I realized that I was not wearing and abaya. Oh no, I thought. I hope I won’t bump into any mutt@w@s before I arrived at my destination I thought. And then I saw a woman walking towards me, and she too was not wearing an abaya. And I got really excited! Hooray! Women are not wearing abayas or covering their faces on the street! I was getting very, very excited. And the men were not staring either!
And I woke up. I realized how silly I was in my dream not to consider that perhaps I wasn’t in this country in my dream. I was in the normal world! Where women could wear any coloured clothes that they wanted on the streets. And the men didn’t stare at them!
Have I been here for too long that I forgot about normal life outside the context of this country? Its only been a year. Almost.
Picture courtesy of BBC
NB The pictures above were taken from a BBC website. Sorry guys I wouldn't dare take pictures out in public here. There have been cases where men and women were beaten up simply because they used their camera phones to take pictures. Doesn't matter if the women were covered or uncovered. I just don't want to risk it.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
For as long as I remember, throughout the course of my married life, there have been pigeons nesting in or around our house.
My first encounter was at an apartment we rented in PJ. For some reason, a mother pigeon decided that the best place for her to build her nest was on top of our air conditioner unit. While she was building her nest, I tried my hardest to shoo her away. I think the neighbours who occupied the balcony facing mine thought I was one crazy lady. [My neighbours happened to be a bunch of students who were at home a lot during the day. I bet I provided some comic relief to them while they were studying.] At least once every morning they would hear this Malay lady, in her nightgown, possibly unwashed and uncombed screaming "Shooohhhhh shoooohhh shoooooh" to the pigeon at her balcony.
I knew they were watching me and possibly even laughing at me as they would look up from their books and stare intently at me. I try not to stare back and quickly pop my head in again. And a few minutes later, I would tap on the sliding door, hoping to frighten the pigeon away again. Only to find out a month later, the mother pigeon was nesting there, and there were a few young squabs in her nest chirping noisily asking for food. I didn't have the heart to chase the pigeons away anymore, except when they get too noisy or I was feeling somewhat irritated by their chirping, then I will harass them a little bit. The parents will fly away for a short while and then come back again.
Until one day, just as I was about to move out of the apartment, we found a dead bird on the balcony floor. I am not one who likes animals. I can eat them just fine but don't ask me to look after them or pat and pamper or clean after animals. I can't. I stand stand the furry moving things. So I can't even think of removing the dead bird carcass. Thank god we had a part time cleaning lady whom we called once a month, and she cleaned out the whole nest and all. And we soon moved out of that apartment.
My pigeon woes started again in Singapore. For some reason, of all the possible places the pigeon could make its nest, it chose the top of my air-conditioner unit again. I tried harassing the mother. I think it worked because although it built its nest there, she didn't lay any eggs there. Unless she laid them there, they hatched and all of them flew away not long after. All that was left behind were some feathers.
While in UK luckily we had a nice sized garden. I loved seeing the birds come and sing in the garden and thus had bought a small bird feeder house. Unfortunately, my old arch enemy - pigeons, not the other smaller more beautiful birds that came to eat the seeds I had left out. And the squirrels too, well the squirrels helped to chase the pigeons away.
Now here, I noticed that a bird is constantly perched at the window of my bathroom. I tried to tap on the window, hoping to frighten it off, only to find out that it always returned. Lo and behold, another pigeons nest. The third one in my life.
Perhaps its my karma? While I was writing this, I remembered once upon a time when I was working as an administrator of a school. One of my staff was complaining that there were too many pigeons on the school grounds, making life difficult for them. They hinted that the pigeon poo could be dangerous for the school children and I should call pest control to get rid of the pigeon problem. So I called pest control, and they told me that there are no real ways of deterring the pigeons from making the school their home. Except by curbing their population. How does one do this? By feeding them with poisoned green beans. The pest control guy gave me a bag of poisoned green beans to feed the birds and Ipassed on the beans to be fed to the birds. And some of them did die.
But what was I to do? I was merely doing my job. Can't have bird feaces raining down on the students during assembly or while they were walking along the corridor can I?
I don't know if its good luck or bad luck to have pigeons making a nest in your house. But it does seem that the pigeons keep coming back to haunt me.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
We walked to the store across the road. The workers were getting ready for opening time. They opened the front screen door for the workers to get in. Not wanting to wait in the heat in our black abayas, we waited in front of the entrace, enjoying the blast of air conditioned air seeping from the half opened inner door.
And we were chased out. We were told that the shop was still closed and we have to wait outside. In the heat. Us in our black abaya.
Then a man wearing a white dress came. (The men here wear dresses, they are not necessarily drag queens :)) He greeted the uniformed security guard who looked barely 20 with the customary salam. He said he wanted to return something. He was told that the shop has not yet open, and he has to wait outside.
The sole man in white told the security guard that it was hot outside and he wants to stand inside, in the shade, with the air-conditioner. And the security guard let him.
We women sniggered. No chivalry here. Nevermind we were women, wearing black, absorbing heat, standing outside in the hot dry weather. We are invisible afterall. We are not to be seen or heard. It was a miracle that we were allowed out of our houses even! And without our spouses who are hard at work in the office! The sole man who had probably skipped the office, got a better treatment. Because he is a man.
Sometimes, its just the small seemingly unimportant incidents like this that gets us all riled up. Just another day in the magic winter wonderland. Not!
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
I have hesitated to blog about this, but Maryam's story has been at the back of my mind. I cannot carry this burden with me anymore because it brings me terrible sadness. But here's Maryam's story as it is told to me.
Maryam was introduced to her husband by her brothers. Her husband was doing business with her brothers, and they thought marrying Maryam off to him makes both good business sense, keeping J as family rather than just business partner.
So Maryam followed her husband here because he was establishing his business here. At the beginning of the marriage he treats her well, and she in turn produces three children for him, one daughter and two sons. They were happy and she believed that he loved her and she loves him too.
She was very dedicated to her children, and because they lived in a small apartment sometimes she forgot her duties as a wife to her husband. But did the husband chooses to help her with the children or the chores, lighten her load a little so she'd have more time to spend with him? No, he chose the easy way out for him, he married a second wife. And worst still, he brought the second wife to stay with them in that tiny apartment. Imagine 2 women, 1 grown man and three children. From then on, Maryam's woes begun, full blast.
Maryam asked her husband for divorce and he refused, because he felt that he was entitled to have four wives, so two is only half of his quota, so why let her go when he can keep both. But aside from providing the roof over their head (he pays the rent) Maryam had to fork out her own money for everything else. Including the food that her husband and his second wife eats. So she had to go out to work because her children were growing and they needed money for school, clothes, books and she needed some neccessities for herself. She found herself a good job with a princess and was fairly well paid. Her heart was broken but she comforted herself that at least she still has a husband and children.
Her husband stopped giving her all forms of Nafkah. She sleeps with her daughter and him with his new wife. Her sons sleep in the living room. And sometimes she, her daughter and sons can hear their father going at it. But what can she do? She tried becoming the good obedient wife, she told herself its all predestined for her. She tried to accept it as Allah's will, and live with the fact that her husband has the right to do whatever he is doing. It hurts her but she tried to swallow it all down.
Now living as a family sometimes it hard enough in a small space, but living with another wife is another story altogether. And no matter how sensible a man is, he is only human, and its impossible to be fair. The children could see how their father's new wife was controlling their lives, taking his love away from them. So they began to act out a little bit. They became more disobedient. They no longer respected their father. Maryam didn't teach her children to be disrespectful of her husband, she never told them to be rude to him or to the other wife, but the children are growing into teenagers, they had their own eyes to see how their mom was sidestepped, and how resentful the second wife was to them.
So one day Maryam's eldest daughter got in trouble with her father. The resentful daughter was a little rude to the father, she referred to his second wife as "That other woman." That remarked upset her husband causing him to hit on her with a stick. And so Maryam intervined to stop him and she was hit instead. She gathered her children and they all ran to her room and they locked the door.
She could not take it any longer. She was at breaking point. It is one thing that he no longer respects or show affection to her, but to treat their own children like that, telling them that his second wife was the apple of his eye, while the rest of them are not, was too much for her. She hung on as long as she could because she thought her children needed a father, as a role model and someone who can protect and love them. But to beat them up with a stick, it was as if they were stray dogs in their own home.
And so she decided to leave. If he was not going to let her go, she would find a way out for herself. One morning, her husband had to bring his second wife out to the clinic as she was feeling unwell. She grabbed hers and her children's passport, called a friend to give her moral support, and together they all jumped into a taxi and went to her Embassy. She told the officers at her Embassy the whole story and asked them to help her bring her and her children out of the country. She was at breaking point. She felt that she has suffered enough and she wants out. It was one thing to hurt and torture her mentally all this time, but to start it on her children as well, she had to think of their future.
The Embassy tried to negotiate on her behalf to her husband. They called him and asked him to come for couple's counselling. But he refused. His wife and children are his, they belonged to him and should be returned to him. As far as he is concerned, there is no need to negotiate anything.
So Maryam waited for 3 days and finally, when all avenues were tried and failed, she was given the ticket to fly back home to her family.
She decided that life as a single mother was better than being a wife who was humiliated, mentally tortured.
I haven't heard from Maryam since. But I hope her new life is better for her.
What is the value's of a man's love when all he does is to hurt you and make you feel so small and so unwanted?
Monday, May 02, 2005
I first met Ella on the bus. It was her second day, she said she needed to buy an abaya. I didn't really need to get anything but had hopped on the bus to grasp the oppurtunity to go out and venture. Its unsafe to walk and shop alone in this country. The men automatically think you're loose or something. Or that they can try something on you. These men need to have their heads checked but thats just the way it is here. So I offered to accompany her to buy her abaya. That was how we got acquainted and then we became friends.
If you're wandering its not quite a public bus. No women ride on public buses here, its unheard of. Women either take private buses (those run by their school or compounds) or limousines. Not the stretched variety, these limousines are just unmarked private cars which some women used, normally driven by a driver they trust, either run by the compound or introduced to them by a friend.
The mood on the bus was rather depressed yesterday. Bella who had just came back from a two months holiday in Rome was feeling the difference in lifestyle too much. She feels encaged. She said, "You know as women in this country we have no rights, no freedom. We cannot be seen or heard. We are treated worst than animals, even my cat has more freedom than I do. My cat can walk around anywhere it wants without the need of chaperone or abaya."
And I do sympathize with her. Some people get used to it. Others don't And sometimes the feeling of being oppressed comes in cycles. Especially if you have been out on a holiday to someplace else in the rest of the normal world. Coming back to have restrictions imposed on you just hits you harder.
I did talk to her before she left for her extended Christmas holidays. She was telling us how she liked it here. But now the culture shock has returned. We often feel, upon coming back here, like our wings are clipped cruelly after we were allowed to fly around else where.
And how do the women drown their caged sorrows? By shopping of course! As I mentioned earlier, the shopping bus becomes a lifeline for the women to the outside world. And the primary occupation here is shopping! And guess what, more Malls are being built as we speak. Who actually buys anything these Mall we don't really know. And I often wonder how the economy can sustain the sheer number of Malls. WOmen here do shop and buy things out of sheer boredom.
The recreation manager would produce a time table every month, detailing where the shopping bus is scheduled to go for the day. Some women depend on the bus for their grocery shopping. Some husbands are just too exhausted when they get home to bring them out. Others just don't like driving at night here and so their wives would depend on the weekends to be brought out.
Or they can take the limo. Perhaps they are called the limo because the charges are exorbitant. RM35 a ride or Rm 50 an hour for a waiting service. We normally refrain from using the limo unless it was absolutely necessary.
Aren't you glad you have the freedom to drive or take the subway or the public bus to go anywhere you want?
Everything, they say, comes at a price. For us here, its our freedom. Would YOU trade shopping for your personal freedom?
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Which one are you?
Apprently I am Eddie(4 x). Sometimes a Gabrielle(3x) and once a Susan and a Lynette (on the Quizilla).
Haha I could not believe that I am an Eddie. Me competitive? So I had to do it again and again. Only to find out that I am a Gabrielle, so I did it again, only to be told I am Eddie. Its quite fun because sometimes you do get different questions.
You can find out which housewife you are here. Thanks for Quizilla link CK :)
PS I know, I know, I need to get a life.